Sitting in rehearsal, Sanford Feibus, now 78, was asked to stand with the rest of his fellow Peninsula Singers for a song in Trinity United Methodist Church in early October last year.
But as conductor Dewey Ehling began the song with 40-plus singers standing, Feibus continued to sit with his head back in the front row.
“I was out of it,” Feibus said. “I don’t remember any of it.”
That’s because Feibus went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully for him midwife Karla Messerschmidt Morgan was behind him.
“Dewey thought he had put his head back to rest but there was no response,” Messerschmidt Morgan said.
A few other singers helped her place Feibus on the floor and she began CPR for several minutes until paramedics arrived.
Feibus said he was told paramedics tried to shock his heart but he was unresponsive until he was given an injection.
It was enough to bring him back.
“Even in the best of situations, you only have about a 30-percent chance of someone getting through a heart attack with CPR,” Messerschmidt Morgan said.
But Messerschmidt Morgan and fellow singers and paramedics’ quick responses revived him enough so they could transport him to Olympic Memorial Hospital and eventually airlift him to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. Unfortunately, Feibus had another cardiac arrest in Seattle but he survived.
Ehling said everyone was shaken up by Feibus’ incident.
“He is so sweet and is a very wonderful person,” he said. “We were only thinking of him. We cancelled rehearsals for about a week or more. The performance was several weeks later.”
But “his brain and sense of humor is intact,” Messerschmidt Morgan said.
Feibus, a retired music educator, spent months in recovery and says he’s still recovering today. However with some lifestyle changes, he’s continuing to sing with the Peninsula Singers, play trumpet with the Peninsula College Jazz Band and the Olympic Express Big Band and giving some private lessons.
“I’m going strong, more than I want at times, but everyday is a gift,” he said.
Messerschmidt Morgan said Feibus’ story shows the importance of everyone knowing CPR.
“I owe the Peninsula Singers my life,” he said. “Had I been somewhere else like the car or anywhere except there I wouldn’t be here.”
Following the heart attacks, Feibus said he doesn’t take himself as seriously as he once did.
“It changed my whole outlook.”
His next gig is the Peninsula Singers’ Christmas concert Nov. 23 at Port Angeles High School Auditorium singing “Hodie.”
“It’s very, very difficult work,” he said. “Everyone is having to practice a lot. It’s the most difficult body of work I’ve ever had to sing, but it’s so beautiful and great.”